Wedding Budgeting 101: Designing Your Ideal Wedding Within Your Means

This may not be a favorite topic among couples just starting the wedding planning process, but it is one of the most important aspects of planning a wedding. Without a clear budget in mind from the start, things can quickly get out of hand as far as expenses go. Whether you and your partner are picking up some, all, or none of the wedding bills, you'll still need to put together a budget based on what it will take to make your dream wedding a reality. 

If you want a rough estimate of what Americans are spending on weddings, according to ValuePenguin, "the average cost of a wedding in 2020 was $20,300." However, this is a national average, and not specific to New Hampshire or the New England area. Additionally, this average was taken during one of the strangest years many of us have ever experienced, so be sure to take it with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, New England's Massachusetts has a reputation for being the most expensive state to get married in, with an average wedding cost of $30,489. New Hampshire is number 7 on this same list. 

However, there are ways to plan an amazing wedding without spending your entire life savings. It starts with determining which services are deal-breakers vs. those you can live without, setting a budget that you feel comfortable with, and then sticking to it! Here are the basics to include in your initial wedding budget, along with ways to make room for extras by compromising on some of the things that aren't as important to you and your partner. 

The Venue(s)

Photo Credit: Kiss The Bride Photography

For most couples, choosing the right venue is one of the most critical aspects of achieving their dream wedding, but what that looks like can be significantly different for everyone. For example, if you've always imagined getting married in a castle, on a mountain, or in a library, then your options will be a bit more limited than if you are more open to the venue type and location. Because there are so many venue options, it can be challenging to know what you should spend on the ceremony and reception venues. With the average cost of a venue rental coming in at around $9,200, it's important to look at all your options.

If you don't want or need separate venues for the ceremony and the reception and are looking to cut costs in this area, try finding a place that can accommodate both events for one price. Many venues will offer multiple options for holding the reception, and the pricing will vary depending on the number of guests attending. So, an obvious way to lower costs is to shorten your list of attendees, if possible. Opting for a tented outdoor wedding vs. reserving a large indoor space could save you some money as well, but not necessarily. It's essential to do your research to determine what's included when you book your wedding with a particular venue or location before making any assumptions.

When it comes to choosing a venue that fits your budget, you'll want to keep in mind a couple of key things. First, what time of year will you be getting married, and what is the climate like there? If it's too hot or too cold to be outside during the season you choose to get married in, you'll want to opt for an indoor ceremony and reception. If you're okay with getting married during a milder season, then you'll have more options for where you can get married and may have better luck finding what you're looking for without going over your budget.

Food & Drink

photo credit: Autumn Bliss Photography

With so many different ways to offer food and beverages at your wedding, estimating the cost of catering can be a bit tricky, as this number can vary greatly depending on how many guests are invited and how the menu is served. A guest list of 50 will vary greatly from a guest list of 200, so keep that in mind when you’re making your guest list! If you’re worried about catering costs creeping up, there are certainly ways to keep these costs in check. 

For example, if you don't want to offer an open bar cocktail hour with fancy hors d'oeuvres, you could always opt for a pre-wedding snack and beverage buffet and keep it simple. A simple tray of cheese, crackers, fruits, and veggies, accompanied by pitchers of lemonade, water, and Sangria, could do the trick. However, if you've always envisioned a chocolate fountain and waiters passing out scallops wrapped in bacon, then, by all means, fulfill that dream! Just know that it will come with a higher price tag.

Whether you keep the pre-party simple or lavish, the reception food and drink should be the event's primary focus. That's not to say you have to serve a 7-course meal, but you'll want to make sure your guests are well-fed. No one will participate in the Electric Slide if they're wondering where the rest of the food went! Buffet options are often more economical than individual meals, but it all depends on the menu, and again, the number of guests. If you're trying to keep costs down and you can't make the guest list smaller, you can opt for a simpler menu or go all out with the menu and try to keep your guest list intimate.

Including alcohol-free of charge for wedding guests can add up quickly, so you may want to offer only beer and wine, with the option to purchase hard liquor. This could also help keep the party from getting too crazy if that's something you're worried about. Another option is to put a time limit on the open bar or have a cash bar, where guests are responsible for buying their own drinks. Whatever you decide, just be sure to inform your guests ahead of time so they are prepared. 

Entertainment, Photography, Flowers, Decorations & Invitations

photo credit: Classic Photographers

Couples sometimes forget to include or underestimate the cost of entertainment, photography, flowers for the ceremony, decorations, and invitations. On their own, they may not make up a significant piece of the budget, but together, they can certainly add up. Invitations won't necessarily add too much to the overall budget. They don't have to cost anything at all if you do them digitally. Opting to create your invitations with templates and printing them on your own vs. having them designed and printed elsewhere could save you a little if you decide to go that route. 

Hiring a DJ is typically a more economical choice vs. hiring a band, but if you prefer live music to someone spinning records or operating the iTunes account, then that might be something worth splurging on. Photography is another thing that's often underestimated; some couples think they can save money by not hiring a professional photographer and having their friend/aunt/uncle take the pictures with a fancy camera. In our opinion, professional photos are always worth it, but again, you don't necessarily have to order the VIP package unless that's one of those things on your list of must-haves. 

There are many ways to take care of the floral needs for your wedding. With the average for florals and decorations costing about $1,800 per wedding, some couples will order some flowers for decorating and then hire a floral designer to create bouquets, boutonnieres, and other essential wedding flowers. Then, there's always the option to use faux florals, which can look surprisingly authentic while saving you some money. Others don't want anything to do with dealing with flowers and will hire a florist to do it all, but this will almost always cost you the most.

Wedding Attire & Rings

Don't forget the wedding rings and attire for the soon-to-be newly-weds. Wedding dresses come in all shapes, sizes, styles, and price tags. You can find them for a few hundred dollars or thousands of dollars or more. And remember, the bride will likely need some alterations done, so be sure to consider that cost when shopping as well. Renting tuxedos or a stylish outfit for the groom and his groomsmen can cost anywhere from $150 - $250 or more (per person), depending on where you shop. 

The cost of an engagement or wedding ring depends on the type and clarity of the stone, the ring material, and the size of the ring. Many couples choose to spend more on the engagement ring than on the wedding ring, but it will depend on your budget, of course. Some couples decide to spend less on the engagement ring and splurge on the wedding ring, or wait until their finances are more secure and upgrade then. The average cost of an engagement ring hovers around $5,600, but there are many alternatives available to help you find rings to meet your budget and style.

Wedding Planner

Hiring a wedding planner is one of the best investments you could make to ensure a perfect wedding day that won't break your bank account. Having a good wedding planner will help you make the most of your budget, no matter what it may be. At Angela Marie Weddings, we work to make the wedding planning process as smooth and straightforward as possible. We'll help you decide what you want to splurge on vs. where you want to cut costs in every category of expenses, so you can have the wedding of your dreams without having to pay for it for the rest of your life. Contact Angela to discuss your wedding planning needs today!

Sources: 

ValuePenguin: https://www.valuepenguin.com/average-cost-of-wedding

WeddingStats.org: https://www.weddingstats.org/cost-of-renting-a-wedding-tuxedo/

Brillance.com: https://blog.brilliance.com/wedding-ring-bands/how-to-budget-engagement-rings-vs-weddings-rings

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